Admin ponders losing three squash courts

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By Julie Williamson

Ryerson’s latest proposal detailing plans to temporarily shut down three squash courts met with verbal opposition last week.

The idea is part of discussions to help solve the space crunch in the Recreation and Athletics Centre in September, 2003, when Grade 12 and 13 students graduate from high school at the same time.

University administrators met Jan. 31 and Monday with student representatives on the president’s advisory committee on athletics and recreation (PACAR). They were hoping to solve scheduling and space difficulties expected when people using the gym along with varsity and intramural athletes are jostling for space with the estimated 3,350 extra students expected on campus.

The plan, presented by assistant athletic director Sandra Hart-Erwin, calls for the construction of a second floor above the cardio room — the room that used to be a squash court, which is now filled with exercise bikes. The three squash courts next to the cardio room would remain but the other three would be used to host activities such as instructional programs that could be conducted in a smaller space, outside of gyms.

Administrators stressed that the plan is temporary and the squash courts would be replaced if funds are available to build an extension to the RAC in five to eight years.

But the plan was criticized by some administrators and athletes who believe squash courts are too popular to consider removing.

“I think there is a lot of narrow-minded thinking and a severe lack of understanding of the sport,” said Paula Kim, a PACAR recreation rep and a member of the women’s squash team. “If [administrators] were more creative in using the courts, they could benefit the RAC more than they do now.”

Regular users say there is already stiff competition for Ryerson’s six existing courts.

“Any time you have to play, it’s hard because that’s when everybody else wants to play,” said Jim Jackson, a third-year civil engineering student who plays three times a week.

Jackson’s friend and fellow third-year civil engineering student Markian Silecky said he sometimes double-books one of the six courts using a false name to ensure he gets playing time. “It’s already hard enough to get a court,” he said.

Plans to lose the courts wouldn’t solve any of the space problems, said Brian Jones, PACAR’s chair and the president’s representative.

“Increasing fitness centre facilities is not going to alleviate the need for more gym space,” Jones said. “That’s not going to solve any intramural or varsity concerns or problems.”

Assistant athletic director Chuck Mathies said the varsity squash teams will still be able to practice with three courts, but acknowledged that if fewer courts are available for rent, fewer students will pick up the sport.

“As you reduce squash courts, you reduce opportunities for students to take an interest,” Mathies said.

The proposal is only being presented to students for feedback, said Marion Creery, Ryerson’s director of student services — the department in charge of the RAC. She said no plan that leaves the RAC with fewer than three squash courts will be considered.

“Right now, we’re just trying to figure out what the best way is to respond to the increased number of students who want recreation, intramural or athletic space,” she said.

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